“What shall I speak to the boys about today?” Shaun asked me as he was getting dressed. “It’s International World Women’s Day.”
“Hmm. Male Chaplain, talking to a Chapel full of boys, with a male head master and male head of the prep school?”
If I could have one wish, specifically as a woman on behalf of other women, what would it be? We have the vote, which our forebears didn’t. We have degrees, which even my mother didn’t when she left Cambridge just before the war. We can keep working after marriage, which her generation couldn’t either, in many professions. We have economic dependence in theory, and now that even the CofE has capitulated I can’t think of many jobs we aren’t eligible for.
But we don’t have equality. Nowhere near. And no, I’m not talking about MeToo. (One equality I don’t have, for instance, is that I have no idea how or where to find a hashtag on my keyboard. Or indeed what on earth it’s for, but that a bit irrelevant because my husband Shaun probably wouldn’t know that either.)
I keep coming back to Shakespeare and Bach. Why are there no women Shakespeares and Bachs? True, there aren’t many male Shakespeares or Bachs either, but that’s not the point. The point is that there never could have been, and in some ways still couldn’t be today.
We have fixed much of it. As Virginia Woolf demonstrated so eloquently, the reason her fictional Judith Shakespeare, Will’s sister, hanged herself in despair rather than becoming a world treasure was because she didn’t have a Room of Her Own: it was quite simply lack of opportunity. But women have been able to take to the stage for some time now, and more recently even sing in cathedral choirs. They can learn the skills that boys can, if not quite so readily.
But Bach lost ten of his twenty children and Shakespeare his only son.
No woman I could even imagine let alone any woman I know could have maintained Bach’s output having buried ten of her own offspring. Nor possibly Shakespeare’s either, having lost just one.
Because of Bink's illness, for twenty years I simply couldn’t write. (Because of that, and other pain my children suffered. Our Aspergic son Alexander also nearly killed himself. Our children lost the roof over their heads when Shaun's employing church put us out on the streets. Long stories all…)
We are simply too connected. It hurts too much. And no one has addressed this massive inequality between us.
Perhaps no one can.